Weight Lifting for Beginners/Intermediates Explained

So why should you lift? Because if you plan to be competitive with your grappling, you need to be strong. I’m not saying you have to be a body builder. However, it’s important to be strong for your weight class.

Bill Starr, a famous name in the weightlifting world, has been well known for some time for his no-nonsense approach to lifting and making strength gains. The information is this article is nothing new, it is simply taking a weight lifting routine of Bill Starr’s, and putting it into layman’s terms.

Probably Starr’s most famous routine is his beginner/intermediate 5×5 routine. Personally, I have visited many weight lifting websites, tried many programs, and have found none that work (for me, personally) better. I will say though, I am not claiming this is the best routine in existence, nor am I saying it’s a one-size-fits-all routine. Every person has a different body-type, and certain things work better for some people than they do others.

That said, let’s take a look at Starr’s 5×5 routine. If you don’t know what you’re looking at already, it seems daunting. There is a load of information along with the routine itself. Let’s skip past most of the background and focus in on the routine itself.

Starr outlines just a few lifts, most of which, we’ve covered before. However, we’re going to add the rest that Starr includes in his routine, today: Squat, Bench, Bent Row, Military Press, Deadlift. That’s it. No cleans. No snatches. Nothing. (Not that we think cleans or snatches are bad; but this is a strength building program, not a power development program).

Here’s the basic layout:

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 4.24.02 PM

Don’t worry, it isn’t as confusing as it looks. Let use an example to show how it will look with some actual numbers in it. Pick the highest number you think you can do 5 reps of, and go from there (for simplicity, we’ll use 300 and 200).

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 5.04.18 PM

Ok, so notice Monday’s numbers first. The highest number on squat is 300, each number below it is just a drop of 10% (30lbs). Same for bench and bent row (10%=20lbs). You start with the lowest, and work your way up (start at 120, go to 200; start at 180, go to 300).

Then, Wednesday, you still do squats, but only go up to your 3rd set, but repeat it. Wednesday ends up being a 4×5 instead of a 5×5.

Friday, things really start to change. You look at your highest number from Monday, and increase it by 2.5% (2.5% of 200 = 5 lbs; 2.5% of 300 = 7.5lbs, round up to 10). If you’ve forgotten how to figure percentages, I’ve got you covered. You multiply the number by .025 and you get your percentage.

Back to Friday. So now your highest number has risen, but you only lift it 3xs instead of 5. Then, you take your 3rd set, and do it again, but for 8 reps instead of 5.

Then, the next Monday, you start over. Here’s what your next week might look like:

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 5.04.38 PM

See how it sort of does the same thing? The numbers change the same way each week (Wednesday’s number always just go up 2.5% if you can manage). The minimum a weight can go up each week is 5lbs. Maximum is up to you, but 2.5% is a pretty solid way to go.

Though 2.5% might not feel like much, don’t sweat it. Consistency will make for some pretty big gains in a fairly short amount of time.

Also, don’t sweat it if you’ve never really been to a gym and don’t know what to do. People don’t go to the gym to make fun of people weaker than them (unless you’re curling in a squat rack; no one likes that). No one in the world is more helpful than weight lifters. Ask questions of people who look like they know what they’re doing. There is absolutely no shame in this. Everyone was once a beginner.




  1. Do you still have copies of the charts for this article? Was looking to possibly start this, but the images aren’t here anymore.


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